‘Patients put at risk by salary cuts’

PATIENTS could be put at risk with ambulance workers facing “devastating” salary cuts.

South East Coast Ambulance Trust (Secamb) is changing the way it pays the so-called unsocial hours payments, with some staff facing losses of up to £5,000. With paramedics earning up to £27,000 and technicians on £22,000 before the extra payments, their loss could mean a 25 per cent salary cut for some workers.

The trust must save £40 million over the next five years, and a spokesman said the new system will be fairer, rewarding those who work the most antisocial hours during evenings and weekends.

But Rob Macey, of the GMB union said: “Our members feel they are being treated appallingly by Secamb. Our view is that paramedics, technicians and other ambulance workers provide a vitally important service to the public and they should be paid properly for doing so. Morale is now at an all time low and it is a very real fear that patient safety could be put in jeopardy.

“People applied for these jobs with the promise they would get the extra payments. We have people who face losing their houses because their mortgage is based on the current salary levels,” he added.

His anger was echoed by Peter Skinner, a Labour Member of the European Parliament (MEP) who represents the south east. He said: “To see dedicated ambulance workers being treated in this way is unacceptable. There will be no doubt that these cuts will have a devastating effect on individual workers, but this could also threaten the future quality of ambulance services.”

A spokesman for Secamb said that the changes were being made in a bid to make the savings required by Government while trying to protect frontline services.

He said: “We have a responsibility to taxpayers to spend funds wisely, particularly given the current financial climate. The introduction of new rota software now means that the trust can accurately measure what hours each member of staff has worked ensuring that all frontline staff are treated equally and a fair payment system can be introduced - one where people are paid for the work they undertake.”